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UKTPO contributes to Parliamentary deliberations on trade policy

The UK Trade Policy Observatory has made significant contributions to the ongoing Parliamentary discussions about the future of UK trade policy.

UKTPO Fellow Dr Peter Holmes recently gave oral evidence to the International Trade Committee’s inquiry into the UK’s negotiations with the EU, the US and the rest of the world.

Speaking about the UK-US negotiations, Dr Holmes argued that the economic benefits of an agreement with the US would be relatively small compared to lost trade with the EU, but that the symbolic achievement of negotiating a deal with such a major global power would affirm the geopolitical ambitions of the UK.

However, Dr Holmes cautioned that the UK would face difficulties in reconciling the differing approaches to regulations and standards in the US and the UK. He said:

"The US has a much more, so to speak, laissez-faire approach to regulation and health and safety, with an emphasis on the fact that if anybody dies, their family can sue the producer. We are more along the lines of the precautionary principle. Rightly or wrongly, the British public has embraced the rather more cautious EU standards on food safety and so on."

Dr Holmes also warned that the UK’s simultaneous negotiations with different countries could impact on one another, and deals struck in one set of negotiations could preclude deals in another. Taking Japan as an example, he explained:

"The Japanese have made it very clear that the value of access to the British market depends on our relationship with Europe. For Japanese car factories, if their access to the EU market is reduced, that makes Britain a much less attractive partner. If we do not have a good deal with the EU, the Japanese are going to be much less interested in us."

Professor L. Alan Winters, Director of the UKTPO, also contributed to a recent evidence session about the UK’s new Trade Bill.

The Trade Bill makes provision about the implementation of international trade agreements and the collection and disclosure of information relating to trade. Professor Winters raised concerns that, while the Bill is ‘trying to do sensible things in a basically sensible way’, it seemed to be open to abuse because it could allow the Government to make major decisions without meaningful Parliamentary scrutiny.

Professor Winters explained:

"The procedures that it will set up might allow a Government ‚Äčthat wished to do so to make really quite dramatic changes through secondary legislation. As we know, secondary legislation is not typically challenged."

Professor Winters also highlighted that the Government had been ‘studiously unspecific’ in setting out its approach to trade negotiations with Japan. In a subsequent sitting of the Public Bill Committee on 23 June, Prof Winters’ analysis was twice referenced by Gareth Thomas MP during the course of the Committee’s deliberations.

The UKTPO has contributed to over 30 Parliamentary inquiries and Government consultations since its inception in 2016. The important contribution of UKTPO and the University of Sussex to the ongoing Parliamentary deliberations was reflected in the comments of Angus Brendan McNeil, the chair of the International Trade Committee. In his introductory remarks on 17 June, he said: "The famous University of Sussex […] Since the start of Brexit, I have seen more of the University of Sussex than anybody else."

To find out more about the UKTPO’s engagement with Parliamentary inquires, see the UKTPO website.


By: George Meredith
Last updated: Tuesday, 30 June 2020

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